American Voter: Paul Gessing

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US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.

Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, while Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.

As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US, asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.

Paul Gessing American Voter Paul Gessing [Courtesy of Paul Gessing]

Age: 45

Occupation: Non-Profit Executive

Residence: Bernalillo, New Mexico

Voted in 2016: Gary Johnson

Will vote in 2020: Donald Trump

Top election issue: Foreign Policy

Will you vote? Why or why not?

“Well, I already have voted. We have early voting here in New Mexico and I vote in every election because it’s one of the ways that we can impact the political system and the policies which we live under in the United States, in the state of New Mexico. And, of course, at the local levels, as well.”

What is your number one issue?

“Foreign policy is really a top issue for me, it’s probably my single biggest issue when it comes to presidential elections. Presidents have a tremendous impact on foreign policy, especially since, to my dismay, Congress in the United States has kind of lessened its role. They’ve abdicated their role in a lot of foreign policy decisions. So, when you’re voting for a president, you really need to focus, I think, on their foreign policy stances and approaches. And while no president is perfect, I think that’s one of the two candidates certainly reflects my values more than the other. ”

Who will you vote for?

“I’ll be voting for President Trump. He’s much more judicious in his approach to foreign policy, which I guess that’s not a thing you often ascribe to President Trump. But he’s been more reluctant to get the United States into foreign entanglements than either of his predecessors. Whether it’s George W Bush or President Obama, both of them had what I would consider rather aggressive foreign policy stances. President Trump has been more reluctant to use force abroad than either of those two people even getting back to the Clinton administration as well, so I’ve been pleased with the president in that area.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“I believe that regulations, and specifically deregulation, has big positive impacts on our economy and that’s something that the president is focused on, as well. I value those kinds of moves that he has undertaken, especially in the wake of President Obama’s administration, where he tried to impose many, many regulations, not through Congress and what I would consider the appropriate venue of making laws, but essentially through the executive order process. So, President Trump has done a lot to remove those regulations.

“The other one is the tax cut issue.  While the problem, unfortunately, with President Trump – but quite frankly, with both political parties and politicians for many years, is that they have spent too much money, I still think the tax cuts were a positive move economically. I wish President Trump or any of the political parties in Washington were more serious about reining in spending and addressing the federal debt. But given that neither party is talking about that, given that Biden’s spending agenda is even more aggressive than the president’s, there’s kind of a no-win situation there. But it’s still enough for me to vote for President Trump based on those three big issues, foreign policy, regulatory reform, as well as the tax cuts. ”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“Well, obviously, there’s a lot of frustration about the lockdowns and COVID-19. There is racial unrest and frustration but in the areas that I think he (Trump) can actually control, I think I’m pretty happy with the overall situation in terms of the policies implemented at the federal level. Washington is really not the avenue for the real response to COVID-19 and that’s very much coming in line with the founding fathers and their federalist view of the system, the federal government, and more of a support role.

“Governors are the prime responders to the virus and the outbreak and setting policies for their individual states and I think that has been wise. Joe Biden is talking about a national mask mandate and he really can’t implement it. Getting enforcement from not just state police, but ultimately local police and sheriff’s offices that he would have to convince because he can’t mandate that they do this. I just don’t think that Biden or anybody else has a particularly good approach. The virus is the virus, and nobody in any part of the world has really come up with a great solution to it and how it spreads and who gets it, who dies from it or has serious health problems. Those are all challenges that I think even the top health experts in the country don’t get.

“The decline of the economy relating to that has been an issue. But overall, in terms of what government can actually impact, I think it’s been pretty good on the racial front. Yeah, I mean, unrest is is always challenging. It’s always frustrating for people who are frustrated, but also for people who are experiencing riots or burned buildings or whatever issues are developing. This is nothing new in the United States.”

What would you like to see change?

“The debt deficit, entitlement reform, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid definitely need to be addressed. I don’t know when things will start to go badly for us by piling up too much debt but I really do look at that as a very serious issue.

“We do need to kind of to have a discussion both about the appropriate uses of law enforcement, as well as race relations and reforming those with respect to the police. It’s a very complicated issue with justifications and wrong actions on all different sides. I really think the drug war needs to be gotten rid of, and that could be a federal initiative, as well. But we’ve already seen states legalise marijuana. States can certainly push back against Washington on a variety of those issues but having a conversation about racism and solving that is a problem is very, very difficult. It’s not going to happen overnight, even if you had something kind of radical – like reparations. But if you had a reform of drug wars – limiting that and police practices, et cetera, you might get to a better place in real terms than where we are now.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“It’ll change plenty. I’ve had a long history of voting for third party candidates, for libertarians more often than not. But the contrast of visions offered by Trump and Biden are sufficient that I voted for a major party candidate this time around for the first time in 20 years. I really think that we have one group that largely is trying to embrace the American ideal, restore American values, unfortunately not on the rhetoric side of things but, generally speaking, the actual idea of America that there’s another group that’s trying to push in a much more aggressive way towards expanding America’s reliance on government.

“I just don’t see a lot of positives with Joe Biden’s approach to governance. His foreign policy has always been much more aggressive. He supported the Iraq war, Obama’s administration, for all its kind of liberal aspects, was pretty aggressive in its foreign policy stance and I think Biden was part of that.”

What’s your biggest concern for the US?

“I do think that there is a general distrust for institutions that have long been around – police have their flaws, but defunding the police is going to be a solid solution going forward. Same way for the Electoral College. The media have in many ways been so partisan in this election blatantly picking sides and choosing one candidate over the other. We need to improve those institutions, not just abandon them and try to work to sometimes provide alternatives where media outlets or policing aren’t succeeding.

“Unfortunately, Trump also makes mistakes when he complains unnecessarily about the voting situation, saying often without justification that there’s widespread voting voter fraud. Definitely, we need to do a better job of combating voter fraud, improving the accuracy of voter rolls, et cetera. But, you know, I think the system overall works pretty well. It’s another decentralised system.”

“Considering the Supreme Court, President Trump obviously just confirmed Amy Cody Barrett. That’s great. I think she’s going to be a fantastic justice. I think the talk of expanding the court, packing it as FDR attempted back in 1937, is unwise, as well. If we don’t like the way the court is configured, I don’t like the idea that the Democrats go ahead and just add new members. They will have their chances.”

Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you would like to say?

“Looking at legislators and candidates for governor and those kinds of folks, those are really the elections that people need to take a careful look at. I realise that President Trump is a very polarising figure and there’s a lot of Republicans who don’t necessarily care for his approach, but he also attracts some Democrats to the fold, as well. But I just think that when it comes to educating yourself and voters educating themselves about political issues and candidates – Don’t sleep on all those legislative races, state senators, mayors and city councillors, and those kinds of folks in the statewide ballot initiatives, as well.”

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